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NYPD to target 'disturbing' recent surge in homicides

Police and city officials say so far this year crime overall continues to drop but killings have risen, particularly in parts of the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill participate in the monthly briefing on crime statistics Monday at One Police Plaza in Manhattan. Photo Credit: John Roca

Faced with a “disturbing” increase in homicides this year, the NYPD and city officials Monday rushed out a five-point plan to stop the recent surge and restore a sense of safety, particularly in parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The plan calls for bringing in up to eight additional officers in each of four precincts spread out in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The cops will be assigned to high visibility posts and will be backed up with resources from the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, officials said.

“We see some areas of real concern, particularly when it comes to homicide. We take that very, very seriously,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at the monthly crime briefing at NYPD headquarters. 

Other parts of the plan call for stronger gun prosecutions, expansion of the Ceasefire anti-gang initiative, helping parolees and intensive investigations when guns are used in domestic violence.

Although in January and February serious crimes continued to drop compared to 2018 by almost 11 percent, de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill acknowledged that the department couldn’t rest on its laurels as the bloodshed continued to rise since Jan. 1. Rapes continued to increase but at a slower page, said officials.

Chief Lori Pollock, head of NYPD’s office of crime control strategies, said killings through February rose to 52 compared with 38 in the same period in 2018, an increase of  36.8 percent. February homicides totaled 24, compared with 16 in the prior year, with 12 of the month’s killings occurring in Brooklyn, compared to five in 2018, she said.

Gang related violence accounted for 30 percent of the homicides in the city in 2019, with domestic incidents comprising 23 percent and drug violence at the root of 10 percent of the killings, Pollock explained, adding that none of the domestic murders involved firearms. Most of the people involved in domestic homicides had no prior contact with law enforcement, she said.

While de Blasio, O’Neill and other officials stressed that the city continued to break earlier records for low levels of overall crime and could be on track for another low year, areas of the Brooklyn north police command, which includes areas of East New York, East Flatbush and Crown Heights, are proving to be a challenge with increases in violence. 

The situation in Brooklyn was underscored by the appearance at the briefing of Eric Gonzalez, the borough’s district attorney.

Gonzalez said the increased number of homicides was “disturbing” and that he was working with the NYPD to focus on gun cases. He said some of the killings driving up the numbers were unusual, including the deaths of three people in a hammer attack in Sheepshead Bay.

Gonzalez and the NYPD are expanding the Ceasefire anti-gang outreach initiative into the 60th and 70th precincts in Brooklyn, as well as a few other areas    

“We just have to get better on both sides,” said NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan of police and prosecution efforts on gun arrests.

Historically, Brooklyn has won about 50 percent of cases of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, comparable to the city average. Gonzalez said his office was auditing its gun prosecutions and expressed dissatisfaction with the success rate in trying certain gun cases in a special borough gun court.

“We need to do better in Brooklyn in terms of these cases,” said Gonzalez.

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